Everyone at the Longmont Symphony Orchestra is busy preparing for the opening night of our 53rd season, “Music is Life.” When I was considering possible repertoire choices for our season opener, I knew that I wanted to provide our audience with a life-affirming musical experience. I could think of no better purely symphonic work than Saint-Saëns’ epic Symphony No. 3 “with organ” to fill that bill. For me, Saint-Saëns’s Third Symphony is a piece that has everything: drama, angst, poetic lyricism, and while there are detours — & such is life — it ultimately brings us to triumph. I am very excited to be sharing this work with the Longmont audience as it is one that I hold dear to my heart.
As our audience is aware, it is a rare opportunity for the Longmont Symphony to have such a beautiful organ at our disposal in Vance Brand Civic Auditorium. Being that we are collaborating with such a fantastic organist on the Saint-Saëns, I wanted to invite our guest artist, Brian du Fresne, to play the first-ever Longmont Symphony performance of Poulenc’s Organ Concerto on the first half of our program. Poulenc’s Organ Concerto is a beautiful work that reflects a shift in the composer’s outlook on life following the sudden death of one of his close friends when they were in their mid-30’s. This shift in style became what Poulenc eventually considered to be the first of his “faith-inspired” works. The sound world of this concerto reminds me of the visual aesthetic of the great French artist Marc Chagall, whose vibrant stain glass windows infuse rooms with light.
The work that we are opening our performance with is Leopold Stokowski’s transcription of J.S. Bach’s Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor. This piece came to me when I, along with the rest of the world, was watching flames engulf the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris. In my mind, Bach’s work is the aural equivalent of Notre Dame; Both are vast in conception and have the soaring lines associated with Gothic architecture. There was something very moving about simultaneously witnessing one of the great monuments ever erected risk being burned to the ground, while at the same time, people from all walks of life were uniting around a symbol of shared culture and heritage.